(This post will have a lot of pictures Tom and I took on our phones and posted via Instagram.)
Before I went to Disney a few weeks ago, I looked up how to handle Disney with a baby. I knew that afterwards I would post my own thoughts on the experience, and so here is my first piece of advice:
It’s not that Disney isn’t great and full of awesome staff and people who like babies. It’s that going into parks day after day, in the heat, with a little baby who needs to nurse and nap is incredibly taxing on both the baby and the parents.
It’s more trouble than it’s worth, and I have vowed not to go back again when nursing. And if I go back with a child little enough to need to nap (probably will), then I would like to stay in a Disney resort so I can easily get back for naps without juggling the parking lot and driving.
That is my best advice- just wait until both you and the baby are in a stage of life where you can actually enjoy the place you’re visiting.
But if you’re going anyway, here are some tips:
1. Buy an adult sized poncho for the stroller. Obviously, this is not necessary if it isn’t going to rain. On our trip, it rained a lot.
Disney sells some pretty high quality ponchos, and I found that they could unsnap on the sides and be resnapped. An adult sized poncho that was unsnapped could be placed over my huge jogging stroller and resnapped in a way that covered my diaper bag and held itself onto the stroller. Score! Totally worth the $7 to keep my baby and diaper bag dry.
2. Buy a fan to clip to the stroller before you go. (We used this one and were happy with it.) Your baby is too little to tell you that they are hot, and inside the stroller under the umbrella, there isn’t a ton of air circulation.
Josey did totally lose it at the parks one day, and we had to give her an ice cube to suck on, which helped. Other than that, it seemed that nursing her and keeping the fan on her, combined with occasional stops in air conditioned areas was enough.
3. Locate the baby centers at each park. Disney has a “baby center” in every park. They all have a different set-up.
Animal Kingdom- You can bring in your stroller with you. There are two private rooms for nursing. There is a large room for changing diapers with many changing tables. And there is another large room where you can give the baby a bottle while other kids can watch a Disney movie/have a snack/color etc. This was my favorite baby center.
Magic Kingom- You have to leave your stroller outside the center. There is a room that is for nursing mothers (or those with easily-distracted bottle fed babies) with about 5 rocking chairs, but it’s not private. There is a sitting area for waiting family members or those giving the baby a bottle. And there is a small changing room that has 2 or 3 changing tables.
Hollywood Studios- You can bring your stroller in with you. There are two small private rooms for nursing that are curtained off, and you can adjust the lighting in them. There is a main room where you can feed a baby a bottle or wait on a nursing mom. I think I remember that there was a tv in there for kids to watch while they waited. There is a small room with two changing tables and a sink as well. This center also has a tiny toilet for kids to use.
Epcot- I didn’t use this one because we were there for so little time that I didn’t nurse at this park.
All of the centers I went into had free filtered water and a microwave to use, which is great for bottle-fed babies. They also all sell diapers, wipes, pacis, baby food, bottles, formula, tampons, sunscreen (for babies and adults), etc. Pretty much anything a mom or baby could forget or run out of and need.
4. Get over the idea that you will use a center to nurse every time. You won’t.
If you’re lucky, your baby is one that can suck down a full feeding in 10 minutes. If that’s the case, you can go sit somewhere discreet and feed the baby.
Or maybe you’ve got a little one who can lay in a sling and eat. Lucky.
I’ve got a baby in the 97th percentile who would be impossible to feed that way, and she takes a while to eat, especially when she’s hot and sweaty (gotta keep her hydrated!).
So for me, it was all about compromise. If I wanted to ride a ride and had a fastpass for it, then I had to accept that there was only one baby center per park, and it was inevitably across the park from where I needed to be.
So I would find the nearest bathroom and settle in to feed her. (I can tell you that the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney has a VERY hot bathroom. Most of the others seemed better air-conditioned.)
5. Take advantage of Fastpasses and RiderSwap Passes. You can read more about it on the Disney site, but basically, you can use your ticket to get a reservation ticket for a popular attraction (like a ride or safari) at a later time. Then, when the time arrives, you just walk up to the fastpass lane, give them your ticket, and go past most of the people waiting in line to a much shorter line.
The riderswap is similar, but it’s for people with children too little to ride.
So, for example, if you have 4 kids, and one of them is too little to ride, you can get a riderswap for yourself and your 3 kids who can ride. After your spouse rides with the kids and you’ve waited outside with your little one who can’t ride, you take your pass and the three kids who just rode (if they want to ride again), and you get submitted into the fastpass lane to have your turn riding it with them.
This is great because both parents get to ride, you don’t wait long, and the kids can ride with both parents (and most want to ride things more than once anyway).
It doesn’t cost extra to do either of those things. Just take your ticket to the fastpass machines beside the attraction and be on your way!
6. Pack a meal/snacks. Parks are famous for overpriced meals and snacks. Disney is pretty amazing in that they will allow you to bring in your own food and drinks, as long as they don’t need to be warmed (with the exception of bottles, which you can heat in the baby centers).
If you’re anything like me, nursing makes you HUNGRY. And having a snack on hand is great.
Also, it will save you oodles when it comes time for lunch. The more people you have to feed, the more you will save this way. And when you do choose to spend money on food, it will be something you really want instead of the least expensive thing you could find in the park.
7. Be willing to sacrifice your plans. One night, my family had reservations to eat at Cinderella’s Castle. I have a TON of nieces in my family, and I was looking forward to seeing them meet the princesses “in a real castle.”
I was excited to get some pictures of Josey meeting princesses for the first time too, though she would have no idea who they were (and with her affinity for hair-pulling, she might have removed a wig).
But when Tom and I were informed of the time of the reservation, the traffic issues, and the time we would have to pull out of the driveway, there was no way to make it work.
Josey hadn’t napped well that day, and she wasn’t cooperating for us by going down for an early nap before we left. She screamed the whole time I showered. The reservation was for the time she would have her last nursing session that day, and she would need to be in bed an hour later.
It was just too much to ask. So we told our family to have fun without us and skipped Cinderella’s Castle.
We stayed in, had Pizza Hut and watched a show on Netflix streaming, then listened to music and hung out while Jo was able to eat and go to bed on time in a quiet house. I have no regrets.
Another night, we went to the Rainforest Cafe. While my family ate, I hung out in the hot bathroom and nursed. That’s life.
8. Plan ahead! It helps to know what matters to you at the park each day so you can plan for fastpasses and what to do until your fastpass time arrives.
Tom and I would plan out our day with my brother and sister-in-law each night. Then, the next day, we would have a time to aim to be at the park and get our fast-passes.
We would try to hit the most popular ones first so that our fastpass times weren’t in the evening. Then we would have lunch and do the other things that looked fun while we waited. That was a great time to fit in little shows and things with short lines.
Knowing a general idea of what we wanted to do was the difference between walking around all day to ride one or two rides (like we did our first day, at Animal Kingdom), and riding everything we wanted to at the park.
It also helps because you can know where people will be while you’re nursing. They don’t have to sit around waiting because they can ride something while you nurse, meet you, and let you go ride the same thing with the rider swap pass. No one misses out.
9. Put on your happy face. I’m keeping it real in this post because sugar-coating it won’t help you plan. But no one wants to hang out with a complaining sour-puss.
Tom and I had the pleasure of riding a tram with a family that had nothing but negative comments to say about Disney. Our thinking is that you chose to spend your day there- crowded areas, heat, and lines are part of it. What did you expect?
Likewise, you can joke about having to nurse in the bathroom, and you can even really be tired of it by the end of the week. But don’t let it wipe the fun out of your trip. You did know your baby was nursing when you signed up for this, right? You can do it!
Because we were there, I didn’t have to miss out seeing my husband finally enjoy rollercoasters, my nephew turning 9 years old, and my sweet baby getting to spend time with her cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
10. Do whatever you can to help the baby cope with the long car trip. Go into Starbucks to nurse so you can all get a break from the car. Let your baby stretch and look around. Bring pacis and toys for the carseat. Make sure the sun isn’t in their eyes.
And when you get home, try to avoid driving your baby anywhere for a while- they could use a break. (After over 25 hours in the carseat in a week, my child didn’t want to go near it for the following two weeks.)
That’s all I can think of right now. Any of you other moms or dads have advice for Disney with a baby?